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Do we need a Christian Left political action committee?

One of the elders, watching over his fields.

One of the elders, watching over his fields.

There’s a story in today’s New York Times, interviewing historians about 20th century mainline Protestantism, which the reporter (wrongly) equates with the Christian Left.

See it here: A Religious Legacy, With its Leftward Tilt, Is Reconsidered.

I think she’s wrong that Methodists, Episcopalians, Disciples, Presbyterians and UCC/Congregationalists always or even mostly have a leftward tilt, and that the Christian Left doesn’t also include, say, the Baptist Jimmy Carter and most U.S. Catholic nuns. But disputing the article is not my point; the piece is fine as far as it goes. The questions it raises for people of faith are more important than what she chose to include or leave out.

Namely, where are we today as progressive Christians? What more should we be doing to assert our Christian values into the public dialogue?

This morning, dailyoffice.org ran this photo and caption:

Bring the DREAMers Home: demonstrators for U.S. immigration reform Monday on Fountain Square, Cincinnati, Ohio included Manuel Perez and the Rev. Paula M. Jackson, rector of Church of Our Saviour/La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador, Mt. Auburn. (Alejandra Pimentel)

Bring the DREAMers Home: demonstrators for U.S. immigration reform Monday on Fountain Square, Cincinnati, Ohio included Manuel Perez and the Rev. Paula M. Jackson, rector of Church of Our Saviour/La Iglesia de Nuestro Salvador, Mt. Auburn. (Alejandra Pimentel)

The demonstration, and the photo of it I was able to obtain, are well-timed; the House of Representatives is taking up immigration reform today. Most people don’t really expect it to pass without another avalanche of draconian punishments for “illegal aliens,” but we’ll see.

What bothers me about the debate around this issue is that a Christian interpretation of it is completely lacking. The so-called “illegals” are “strangers and sojourners” in Old Testament parlance, and “neighbors” in Jesus-speak – as in “Love thy neighbor.”

They are also scapegoats, just as Christ was, for the real problems of the nation – financial collapse, unemployment, and the replacement of democracy with oligarchy.

William Holman Hunt: The Scapegoat, turned out and left to die.

William Holman Hunt: The Scapegoat, turned out and left to die.

Scapegoats are not allowed, Christians; you know that. There can be no question that the racism and prejudice against Latinos must stop at once.

And while there are plenty of U.S. Christians saying these very things, we get consistently drowned out by shock jocks and their imitators in Congress.

I suppose if we were equally shocking we’d get on the teevee too. But there has to be another way.

What about a political action committee that’s specifically organized by and for the Christian Left?

There are many vehicles for the Secular Left and they all do good work. But so much of the vitriolic right-wing opposition claims Christ that I think we should take him back again and set him free from his fundamentalist captors.

The basic reason fundamentalist Christianity exists is to promote racism, sexism, homophobia and war. The Southern Baptist Convention is the proof of this in its very existence; it was founded to defend slavery.

As I look around the Episcopal Church, I see several manifestations of firm belief in Christ and in God’s liberating mission to save humanity. For heaven’s sake he parted the Red Sea a long time ago, to free the Jews from slavery.

That act is still God’s template. So is the Crucifixion, which set us free from sin.

By Luiz Coelho, Jr., an ordained deacon in the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil. A Gay guy, too.

By Luiz Coelho, Jr., an ordained deacon in the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil. A Gay guy, too.

At 62 I don’t feel like I’m the person to organize the Christian Left PAC (nor that that’s necessarily the best name for it; we’re talking mainstream Christianity here). It’s something younger activists ought to do.

But they’re not, so I keep thinking about it.

What do you think? Do you not find, faithful ones, that nearly every public policy question on the American agenda is spoken of in the Bible?

Republicans in the House want to end Food Stamps, while Christ told Peter, “Feed my sheep.”

We cannot let this impasse go on, because people suffer horribly from our inaction.

I do know this: we have to take on Christian fundamentalism full in the face. That’s something we’ve never been willing to do before, which I think is probably mainstream Christianity’s biggest mistake in the last 100 years.

But from 9/11 to the shooting of Malala, the Pakistani schoolgirl who advocates for universal education, we’ve seen what fundamentalist violence is like. We’ve seen it when so-called Christians bomb abortion clinics, assassinate doctors, bomb Gay bars in Atlanta, send Orthodox priests to beat up Gay people in Russia; we see it in Israel, in Hasidic communities in New York. We’re even seeing it lately among Buddhists in Myanmar!

Slavery. Scapegoats. Patriarchy. Homophobia. Attacking the poor. Trayvon Martin. The Military-Industrial-Religious Complex, in case you’ve forgotten George W. Bush and the “Left Behind” series. None of the enemies of Christ are going away anytime soon, there’s too much money and power in sin.

We’ve lacked nerve; we’ve been unwilling to endure persecution. So we kind of nibble around the edges of theology and politics, not wanting to mix them up too much, even though half of what Jesus said was directly “political” as we understand it today.

“Feed my sheep,” don’t cut Food Stamps.

Strap your sword upon your thigh, O mighty warrior, *
in your pride and in your majesty.
Ride out and conquer in the cause of truth *
and for the sake of justice.

— Psalm 45

I know we’re lovers, not fighters – but we’re fighters too.++

First same-sex wedding on a U.S. military base.

First same-sex wedding on a U.S. military base.

They’re not crazy, they’re fascists.

I’ve been frustrated for some time at the naiveté of current political analysis by American liberals and centrists, who can’t make hide nor hair out of the antics of the right. Their most common explanation is, “Those folks are crazy.”

And you can see why; they say some loony stuff. “Birtherism” is perhaps the best-known example; even President Obama’s birth certificate is no kind of proof to these people – because they’re not looking for proof or interested in facts.

I could put up a whole rogue’s gallery of public figures who are part of this faux movement, and fill this space with some of their wild quotes – but I won’t do it. You know already, you see them every day online and on the boob tube. So instead I’ll post a photo you might not expect.

When Chuck Grassley, longtime Republican Senator from Iowa, started trotting out the so-called "death panels" as a way to kill the Affordable Care Act, I knew the end was near.

When Chuck Grassley, longtime Republican Senator from Iowa, started trotting out the so-called “death panels” as a way to kill the Affordable Care Act, I knew the end was near. He didn’t believe a word he said – and he didn’t care that he was uttering a bald-faced lie. Mild-mannered Chuck Grassley from good old Iowa!

This is not your grandparents’ Republican party. Those people were patriotic, they did what they thought was right for the country. Today’s Republicans say and do anything they can think of to increase their power at the country’s expense.

The crazier the statement the more they like it. They’ve left shame behind; their only interest now is propaganda. It makes money; it gives them power.

It makes President Obama look reasonable and intelligent to most Americans, but weak and vulnerable to his enemies. That’s how they want him to look. They don’t care why he looks that way, as long as they can make people think they smell his blood.

Mike Huckabee, the genial fundamentalist, claimed yesterday that Benghazi will force Obama to resign.

Watergate was a systematic attack on the Constitution. Benghazi was a terrorist attack on a consulate.

Watergate was a systematic attack on the Constitution. Benghazi was a terrorist attack on a consulate.

To me, the only commentator who comes close to articulating what’s really going on here is Rachel Maddow. She doesn’t describe it as a fascist takeover of the GOP, but that’s what it is.

It comes in a form we’re not used to, especially in the United States, where we’ve never had a sizable fascist movement before. And these people don’t look like the fascists of old.

I’m not calling them Nazis; they’re not. They’re much closer to Mussolini than Hitler, especially in the desire of some right-wing factions to align the state with big corporations. Think the Koch brothers, trying to take over the Los Angeles Times. They’re part of the corporatist wing which failed to elect their puppet Mitt Romney.

There’s also a populist wing called the Tea Party, which is itself a catch-all term for numerous factions; the Grover Norquist wing, the NRA wing, the anti-abortion/birth-control anti-Gay wing, and others. Appealing to all of them (but often losing control of its own narrative) is the “right-wing political-entertainment complex” of Fox News and radio talk shows – which are more about making money than ideology. Rush Limbaugh’s a rich man, but Rupert Murdoch is a lot richer. All they care about is ratings – and they know that to get ratings, they have to throw red meat to their audiences, more and more every day. In that light, Huckabee is late to the party, and fairly pathetic.

They know what they’re doing; it’s all deliberate. It’s why they just make stuff up anymore; two days ago Limbaugh blamed Obama for the kidnapped women in Cleveland.

Stop calling them crazy. Stop being surprised by them. Recognize that every one of these developments is the result of calculation and market research. They’re attacking your democracy, and they won’t quit until they win or are destroyed.

(Their factionalism does give me a little hope. Tea Partiers are not natural allies of billionaires, which is why Big Business moved quickly to co-opt them with FreedomWorks.)

Like every other country, America’s always had racists, reactionaries and rich guys. What’s new is that this time they’ve also got Republicans. That didn’t happen by accident; Republican politicians have nowhere else to go. They are out of popular ideas, now that Reagan’s dead; the public doesn’t like what Republicans stand for, or we’d have privatized Social Security under G.W. Bush. They can’t win national elections, or even states they used to win, so now they’re doing everything they can think of to restrict voting.

My grandparents were staunch Republicans, but they would never have voted for these people. It’s anti-American to eliminate voting rights. That’s like trampling the flag and desecrating the graves of our War Dead; something shocking, unheard-of, un-called-for.

But in 2013 we need not to be shocked anymore by these antics. We need to expect them, and then we need to defeat them, while we still can.

Otherwise the plutocrats will move in, before Democrats figure out what hit them. (Poor Harry Reid; have you ever seen such an ineffectual majority leader?)

When Rep. Todd Akin made his wild claim that after rape, “the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down,” do you think he didn’t know what he was saying? Do you think he was just misinformed?

Or do you think he made a reasonable political calculation, that the passion of an organized minority (people who hate abortion) can outvote a disorganized majority?

That’s what they did last month in the U.S. Senate, when they voted down background checks to keep guns out of the hands of murderers and psychopaths. An organized minority, especially if it’s got money, can defeat a disorganized majority every time.

That’s how government works! That’s why lobbyists write legislation you have to live under.

In 2008, 52% of young voters went out and voted. Two years later, only 25% of them turned out, and the GOP won back the House of Representatives. Two years after a financial meltdown caused by Republicans, Americans voted them back in!

In 2012, young voters came back to the polls and Obama was re-elected. Romney’s predicted landslide didn’t happen, and for the first time more Black Americans voted than Whites by percentage.

But here’s the really telling statistic for what’s happening now.

Source: Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind poll

Source: Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind poll

Forty-four percent of Republicans think “an armed revolution might be necessary.”

That is, civil war.

Do you hear the drums beating? Maybe you should, although I can’t really blame you if you’re in denial. That’s where Democrats and pundits are right now, along with most Americans.

“Fascists? Didn’t we beat them in World War II?” Yes, but that was a long time ago – and those fascists were foreigners. These are home-grown.

“Oh, stop being an alarmist!” (I agree it’s bad for ratings among liberals, but I’m not getting paid to write this blog. Meanwhile, you explain why 44% of Republicans think “an armed revolution might be necessary.”)

This war, if God forbid it comes, will take place before a backdrop of huge unemployment and economic dislocation, caused by speculators and plutocrats on Wall Street, and political gridlock on Capitol Hill, which Americans voted for. Economic hardship is often a precursor for war.

How many states now have Republican super-majorities in the Statehouse? Those are the bright orange ones in this map, while the bright blue ones are controlled by Democrats. Only three states are split.

USA Today newspaper

USA Today newspaper; click to enlarge.

In the U.S. Senate, all states have equal voting power. Two Republican no-names in Idaho can cancel out Feinstein and Boxer in California – and they consistently do.

When the chairman of the House Science Committee denounced science as “straight from the pit of hell,” who was he talking to, but the organized (and armed) minority?

He wasn’t crazy. He was calculating.

Let me mention now in passing the role of fundamentalist religion in all this. My mainline Episcopalians never pass out voters’ guides the Sunday before an election. But Baptists and megachurches do every time; organized minority vs. disorganized majority.

My final point concerns the rise of violent anti-Gay fascism in France. You might think the French would know better, having suffered under the Nazi occupation in World War II – and mostly the French do know better, that’s why they voted Socialist and passed same-sex marriage – but an armed minority can cause a lot of damage to an unarmed majority.

Police had to use tear gas to subdue anti-Gay rioters last month. (London Telegraph)

Police had to use tear gas to subdue anti-Gay rioters in Paris last month. Were they really that anti-Gay, or were they using opposition to same-sex marriage, ginned up by the Catholic Church, to win power? (London Telegraph)

I don’t have a crystal ball, but I don’t like what I see; not from the President, not from Democrats in Congress, not on MSNBC (especially Chris Matthews, whom I admire as a person) – and not online, where my Facebook friends continually yap that “them folks is crazy.”

No. Them folks is dangerous and we’d better be prepared. Let’s start by realizing what’s really going on. The birthers know better, all of them do; but many people have a deep-seated hatred of this African-American President, at the same time we’ve got mass unemployment, terrorist attacks, same-sex marriage, undocumented immigrants and (since 1962, but who’s counting) no organized prayer in public schools. Chuck Grassley had better ride that wave or he might drown. So he’s all for Chuck Grassley and America be damned.++

VIDEO: “The Thaw” – militarized, fist-thumping children in (dare I mention) Idaho

Rutgers Tape Shows the Violence, Homophobia & Moral Corruption of Bigtime Sports

UPDATE: Rutgers University fired Coach Mike Rice Wednesday morning; this post was written Tuesday night. The focus of public anger now turns to the athletic director, who was informed of the allegations back in July, took no action until the videos were handed over in November, and finally suspended the coach for three games without pay.

This is the same school where Tyler Clementi took his life after his roommate secretly live-streamed video of him kissing a man in their dorm room, provoking a national outcry about bullying.

I grew up Gay in a somewhat athletic family. I’m not very talented physically, but I’ve participated in most of the sports American boys are taught – and I kept playing for decades after my more athletic brothers quit, especially once I found something I was good at: distance running and other highly aerobic activities. One of the highlights of my life was rafting down the Arkansas River years ago from Salida, Colorado to Canon City. It’s dramatic, risky, exciting, a wonderful physical challenge (“Churn churn churn, paddle paddle, front, back, reverse reverse, look out for that hole! OMG we’re gonna slam into those rocks!”), all while surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery. It was like having fantastic sex for six hours straight!

white-water-rafting

I’ve been a sports fan all my life – until the last couple of years, because now I see how money has corrupted elite athletics.

The excitement of physical competition is completely real, for the athletes and the fans. Combine the physical genius of highly skilled players with the shrewd strategies of gifted coaches and you’ve got quite a show indeed. But what we don’t see is far more important than what we do.

Lance Armstrong confessing to Oprah. He was willing to win at all costs - including risking the health of his teammates.

Lance Armstrong confessing to Oprah. He was willing to win at all costs – including risking the health of his teammates.

It isn’t just Lance Armstrong doping, and coercing all his teammates to do the same; it isn’t just NBA and FISA officials throwing games so the most lucrative teams win. It’s more than just the politics of the Olympics, with all their bribes and intrigues; it isn’t just the NCAA’s exploitation of “student-athletes” at major colleges.

It’s us. The fans. We’re the people who fund these organized criminal enterprises owned by billionaires, often at taxpayers’ expense. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the “500,” just persuaded the Indiana Legislature to divert tens of millions of dollars in property taxes to their private business. “Look at all we do for the city,” they say. “Look at all the tourists we bring in. You did the same thing for the Pacers and the Colts.” Who can argue? Not local hack politicians who did indeed build new arenas for the football and basketball teams, both owned by billionaires.

Now comes Mike Rice, the head basketball coach at Rutgers University (which is soon to join my beloved Big Ten Conference) in a big new scandal. Videotapes of his practices show him systematically abusing his players, physically and verbally.

ESPN and the newspapers describe Rice as using “homophobic slurs” and “throwing basketballs at his players’ heads from point-blank range.” But it wasn’t their heads he usually aimed at. He gives new meaning to the term “crotch rocket,” as in “incoming.”

Who can be shocked that a coach calls his players fairy, cocksucker and faggot? Bobby Knight did that at Indiana for decades, where he’s still revered for two national championships despite his criminal record. Verbal abuse is the stock in trade of many coaches, including high schools, middle schools and Little League, so who’s kidding whom?

Rice’s misogyny, his contempt for women by calling his players cunts, bothers me more. No wonder so many players get in trouble for rape, domestic violence and other crimes.

As professional and Olympic sports (which are also professional) scandals mounted over the years, I turned my attention more and more away from the pros to the college level. I come from a long line of Purdue University graduates; it’s a school we’re very proud of. A century and more ago, the president of Purdue created the Big Ten Conference as the first successful attempt to police college sports, which were headed down the corrupt path. Purdue’s athletic teams have been largely scandal-free since then (unlike those at hated rival Indiana, among many other schools), and the kids who play at Purdue go to class, usually graduate and are successful. They don’t all take basket-weaving, either; I know several who took extremely challenging classes in engineering, pharmacy, math, history and other fields.

But it’s become increasingly clear that Purdue has sacrificed a good part of its educational mission, especially since the creation a few years ago of the Big Ten television network, which makes so much money that it’s caused conference realignment nationwide, as other leagues try to duplicate what BTN is doing.

Rutgers is now joining the Big Ten (which is growing to 14), mostly to get BTN into the New York market. The conference has always been prominent in Chicago and the Midwest; all but one school, Northwestern, are publicly-owned. Now instead of concentrating on its historic Great Lakes territory, the Big Ten extends from the Atlantic to Nebraska – and would go to the Pacific if the money were right.

But the conferences are now, and long have been, subordinate to the NCAA, which The New York Times columnist Joe Nocera calls a “cartel.” The NCAA has a Congressional exemption from monopoly laws while raking in billions of TV dollars.

Need a sports fix? The NCAA has an app for that.

Need a sports fix? The NCAA has an app for that.

Nocera and other journalists are dedicated to showing that the NCAA is completely ruthless at exploiting athletes. They’re essentially slave labor. They get scholarships – unless they get hurt, in which case they’re often on their own, with no way to pay the medical bills from all those concussions and broken bones. Schools just toss those kids away. If they’re poor and Black, they don’t stand a chance.

But because all this is done in the name of “education” and “not-for-profit,” most fans just look the other way and enjoy the show.

It’s maddening to me to go on Facebook and see all the Episcopal clergy I know touting their favorite teams, which they do constantly, without any acknowledgment of the labor issues, the health consequences, the sexism and racism and homophobia that are built into the Big Sports Machine. I mean, world-class football will kill ya – but they’re all glued to their TV screens and texting on Twitter and Facebook.

There’s going to be a reckoning someday. I believe the entire sports edifice will come crashing down in a worldwide spasm of disgust, because the whole thing’s based on human exploitation. People who get outraged by sweatshops in China or sexual slavery in Thailand and Russia will not be able to escape knowing they provide the market for these products.

And no feel-good features on TV, like how that Notre Dame player kept going despite the death of his phony girlfriend (and Grandma on the same day!) will be able to overcome the revulsion, or the knowledge that we all participated in this.

So what if there’s an openly-Gay baseball player someday? That’s bound to happen. Reforms on the periphery are not going to cure what ails sports.

They’re violent. They kill people. They’re racist and sexist and homophobic. They use slave labor in college. They bribe their way to success.

It’s all just a TV show – but the fix is in and always has been.

You’re paying for it, sucker. Why worry about global warming when it’s baseball’s Opening Day?++

Jeter-3000-Poster-REV

Republican Meltdown

boehner-cries

We seem to be witnessing the implosion of the Republican Party. It just gets curiouser and curiouser.

On Friday House Speaker John Boehner first scheduled, then withdrew a vote on his “Plan B” as a step toward resolving the so-called fiscal cliff crisis, in which all the tax cuts of George W. Bush are set to expire and $500 billion in across-the-board spending cuts will go into effect.

Boehner didn’t have the votes for Plan B. He couldn’t get his own party to go along with him.

Plan B would have extended Bush’s tax cuts for 99.8% of Americans – everyone who makes less than a million dollars. (And even millionaires would have enjoyed continued lower rates on their first $999,999.) But House Republicans wouldn’t do it. They want no tax increases at all.

They don’t care that polls show the American people overwhelmingly favor increasing taxes on the rich.

These are the same “lawmakers” (put that in quotes because they’re not making any laws at all these days) who moan and groan about the budget deficit and the national debt, which they’re sure will “turn us into Greece” any day now, causing hyperinflation, high interest rates and mass unemployment. Indeed, they’ve been predicting this since 2008, yet interest rates remain so low my bank is now begging me to refinance my mortgage so it can profit on all the money it “saves” me.

Inflation-indexed Treasury bills carry a negative interest rate. If you’ve got ten grand to park, it will cost you money to give it to the U.S. government. We’ve never seen such a thing. Bonds are supposed to pay you, not the other way around!

The deficit hawks keep predicting the end of the world. The Mayan calendar comes and goes, the world keeps spinning, but the GOP/Tea Party is convinced we must cut spending – not for the sacred military, mind you, but for “luxuries” like unemployment benefits, food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid and disabled veterans.

If it doesn’t help millionaires, Republicans aren’t interested.

This is all very odd. And though this situation is incredibly complex, certain basic facts stand out.

Under ordinary rules of politics, politicians favor what’s popular with the public. But these Republicans don’t. People don’t want Medicare cut; they like Medicare and they paid into it. Congressional Republicans want to cut Medicare anyway.

A recent poll by CNN/ORC found that a majority of Americans say the Republicans are “too extreme.” That should cause them to moderate their positions, but so far it hasn’t.

If no deal is made and we go off the “fiscal cliff,” government spending will gradually drop so drastically that by spring, we’ll head back into a recession. And people will blame the Republicans if that happens, according to a Pew Research poll.

House Republicans are unmoved. They won’t raise taxes no matter what. They’re willing to let their Speaker twist in the wind on Capitol Hill rather than do a simple deal to keep the whole party from looking like idiots.

Grover Norquist’s infamous no-tax pledge has been shredded so badly that this week he declared Boehner’s tax increase on millionaires wasn’t a tax increase at all. He’s coming very close to political irrelevance, after dominating the party for 20 years.

Dick Armey took a $7 million payout from FreedomWorks, a phony Tea Party organization financed by the Koch Brothers, after the election, demanding that they remove all references to him immediately on his departure. This week, FreedomWorks declared “Two Cheers for Plan B” on Thursday, then Friday morning said, “That doesn’t mean to vote for it.”

The National Rifle Association held a “news conference” (a speech, actually, no questions allowed) Friday in the wake of the mass murder of 6-year-olds in Newtown. Wayne LaPierre’s speech was almost universally condemned; even Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post was appalled.

 

The Post is Rupert Murdoch's conservative paper; the Daily News is sort of moderate.

The Post is Rupert Murdoch’s conservative paper; the Daily News is sort of moderate.

But so far Republicans are “sticking to their guns,” in the face of polls showing Americans want sensible gun safety laws. According to the Daily News, Pew found that “65 percent said that allowing assault weapons ownership makes the country more dangerous, while just 21 percent say they make the country more safe.”

Just hours ago, a candlelight vigil was held at Lafayette Park in Washington. (Mandel Ngan/AFP-Getty)

Just hours ago, a candlelight vigil was held at Lafayette Park in Washington. (Mandel Ngan/AFP-Getty)

John Boehner has tried to get a deal with President Obama, but he doesn’t have enough support in the House. How long can he remain Speaker this way? Saint Reagan couldn’t corral these people; he raised taxes 11 times.

If compromise is now a dirty word to Tea Party Republicans, the government grinds to a halt. Whatever the House might pass, the Senate will reject, and we’re left with nothing.

When has a political party ever induced a recession, thinking this is what people want? It’s never happened!

So what’s really going on here?

First, Saint Reagan is dead. The Republican Party hasn’t had an idea since he left office, so they keep running on what they say he stood for, as distorted by lesser lights since then like Newt “Moon Colony” Gingrich, Norquist, conservative think thanks, neo-con warmongers at the National Review, Rush Limbaugh and Fox. When a new idea does surface – the universal health insurance mandate, part of Romneycare and Obamacare, originated at the Heritage Foundation – other conservatives beat it to a pulp. Eventually no idea can survive. Republicans become more and more right-wing, with no effective brakes to keep them from plunging off the cliff.

Apparently they haven’t lost enough elections yet; that’s what causes party realists to slam the brakes. Democrats had to lose the White House three times before they found Bill Clinton, a Southerner and “new Democrat.”

Second, in the absence of a coherent ideology, the only thing that matters to most politicians is simply getting re-elected. They don’t really believe anything (which is a Tea Party criticism too). All that interests them is power. If a new ideology came along and seemed to offer a more popular outcome, they’d switch in a heartbeat; “forget what I said yesterday, here’s what I say now.” If Grover Norquist is out, “I didn’t really mean it when I signed that pledge.” If Grover Norquist comes back in, “I’ve been with Grover from day one.”

Congress is like “Survivor.” They just wanna be on TV.

The 2012 election thinned the ranks of House Republicans, but they retained the majority due to gerrymandering in the districts, where Republicans controlled the map-drawing after the 2010 census – AND the 2010 midterm elections. This year Democratic House candidates actually received a collective majority of the votes, but won only about 45% of the seats, thanks to gerrymandering. (Maybe someday, after the gridlock, Americans will finally decide gerrymandering harms the country. Maybe someday pigs will fly.) Indiana’s Congressional delegation flipped from 7-2 Democrat to 7-2 Republican in two short years.

Nate Silver of The New York Times suggests there is no way to put together a winning coalition in the incoming House. If so, we’ll have gridlock for the next two years.

Say that Mr. Boehner cannot count on the support of 34 of his Republicans when it comes to passing major fiscal policy legislation. That means he would need to identify 18 Democrats who would vote along with the Republicans who remained with him.

Here’s the problem: it might be hard to round up those 18 Democrats.

The reason is that most of the Democrats who remain in the House are quite liberal.

Here’s the really important thing: whatever political manipulations have occurred (and yes, they happen every day), the American people voted for divided government. A fascinating new CNN/ORC poll, little publicized so far, shows that despite all the bad press and lopsided polls listed above, people still want Republicans to control the House, 51%-43%. That poll was taken earlier this week!

People voted for gridlock and they still support it. Therefore, paradoxically, what House Republicans did this week was simply giving them exactly what they asked for – in general, not on specific issues. Republicans are losing on actual issues, but as a rule of thumb they’re doing great!

Americans don’t know what they want. And if we don’t know, how can Washington?

Obama and the Democrats made a huge mistake, losing the 2010 midterms. This is entirely the fault of the President, David Axelrod and David Plouffe. A census year is the most important midterm of the decade, because it determines who controls the statehouses, and they control the maps, which naturally favored the GOP.

We are at last ungovernable. Obama’s going to have to see what he can do by executive order, because nothing will pass the 113th Congress. Fiscal cliff? Debt ceiling? Recession? The Middle East? Toss a coin.

Meanwhile I’ll be curious whether anyone can lead the imploded Republican Party, and what life will be like if no one can.++

what-me-worry2

Sore Loser

My neighbor across the street thinks somebody died last night.

Let us pity Republican Straight White men. Their world is coming to an end. Some of them are in mourning. They feel it like a death in the family; Grandpa died last night.

Sometimes I wonder where we get these drama queens.

A week ago my neighbor’s yard sprouted half a dozen GOP yard signs – not pointed to drivers and pedestrians passing by, but aimed across at me. A person had to stand in front of his house to read them – Mike Pence for Indiana governor, Richard Mourdock (conception after rape is “God’s will”) for U.S. Senate, some guy for Congress now that we’ve been redistricted from the Democratic 1st to the Republican 4th. I even voted for one of his recommendations, a candidate for county commissioner. But all of them aimed at me, like I’m the enemy.

Late Monday night, after dark, I retrieved my Obama ’08 sign from the garage and pushed it into the front yard for the sake of passersby. I didn’t have a need to taunt that neighbor; the house next to his sprouted an Obama-Biden sign Monday morning, where there wasn’t one four years ago.

You can tell Indiana wasn’t a swing state this year; my old yard sign.

This morning, the day after the election, my right-wing neighbor took down all his signs but one. Then he lowered his flag to half staff.

I’ve chuckled about it ever since. He’s defiant in his defeat. He’s proud of his beliefs and he seems to want to make sure I know it.

I feel a little bit sad for him. I can empathize up to a point; if President Obama had been beaten last night, I’d definitely be depressed today. So I can understand my neighbor’s angst. I wouldn’t be happy either if I thought my country had made a disastrous choice. If Mitt Romney had won I’d have been just as convinced as my neighbor is that the USA was headed for doom.

The difference is that Romney represented plutocracy, rule by the rich, as opposed to democracy, where everybody gets to decide. If he had won, our country wouldn’t have changed that much; our TVs would be filled with corporate propaganda under Mittworld, just as they are in Obamaworld.

My poor neighbor seems to think we’ve now sold out to the Commies, which is the End of Life as We Know It.

But turn on your TV, pal; doesn’t the screen look just like yesterday, without the political ads? Same Microsoft, same car commercials, same Olive Garden.

What can ya do? Same shit, different day.

I enjoyed the era when Straight White men ruled the world – until I was 13 and saw Black kids water-cannoned on TV just for trying to go to school; and old Black women beaten over the head for trying to vote. I’m not nostalgic for those days anymore. The only people they were good for was Straight White men.

Today I’ve got another neighbor across the alley and down two doors; he’s Mexican. I don’t know whether he’s here legally or not. And I don’t care, except that by choosing to live here and buying his house, he contributes to the economy of my little village. Yes, he plays music I can’t understand when he’s working in his garage, but whoever said I’m supposed to get into his music? I doubt he’d get into mine, but that’s good; let there be many kinds of music.

Meanwhile in Wisconsin, voters just elected our first Lesbian Senator, Tammy Baldwin. Should we lower our flags over that?

(Associated Press)

Marriage equality won in Maine, in Maryland, in Minnesota, in Washington State; voters decided, for the first time, Gay marriage is cool. Is the nation supposed to mourn that? We don’t!

Daniel Noble, an Assistant U.S. Prosecutor in New York, married Ryan Fleenor last weekend; he’s an assistant priest at St. James’s, Madison Avenue. First they had a civil ceremony and then they went to church.

As Republican strategist Matthew Dowd put it last night, the GOP tried to sell us “Mad Men” in a “Modern Family” world. Should we all sing dirges now?

I’m not; I’m thrilled. But I acknowledge my neighbor’s sadness, even as I’m glad it’s him and not me.++

Romney Disqualified to Be President

The Romney scowl. (Saul Loeb/AFP-Getty)

Presidential Debate #1: Mitt Romney looks presidential while running roughshod over sleepy Barack Obama. Debate #2: The President wakes up and punches him out.

Result: Obama retook the momentum, but Romney gained more the first time than Obama gained back last night.

The election, just three weeks from now, will be close – a lot closer than it needed to be, because at the time of the first debate, the President was pulling away in all the swing states and Romney was fading into irrelevance, just like John McCain did in 2008.

Obama allowed Romney to roll him like a drunk in the gutter. I count that as an epic moral failure, because as Obama well knows, this election isn’t about him, it’s about us.

With America still recovering from a terrible recession, our future depends on who wins this election. If Romney wins, rule by the rich will replace rule by the people. If Obama wins, we still have a chance to create our own destiny, as individuals and as a nation. And as we go, so goes the world.

It’s a world in which the Taliban shoots a girl in the face for advocating female education.

May God forgive Barack Obama for that first debate. Jesus is our Savior, but the Lord depends on us today to get his message out about Love Thy Neighbor.

Obama let Jesus down, and billions of us mortals. He let down Malala, now in the hospital in London trying to recover from her wounds.

Romney of course is no friend of the Taliban – but he’s also no friend of Malala.

He’s “qualified” to be president as a former governor and businessman, but his positions (to the extent anyone can say what they are), his values and his personality disqualify him. Two weeks ago Obama was well on his way to proving that.

Romney believes in patriarchy. Why would he not, being a Mormon? Patriarchy is the basis of his religion.

He’s a nice guy; I’ve never met a Mormon who wasn’t. But the foundation of the “latter-day saints” is one man, lots of wives, lots of kids, and eventually the man will end up as a god on a distant star.

It’s unbelievable in every way. Mormons think sex is the way to salvation – heterosexual sex, that is. It’s why they give millions to defeat same-sex marriage.

As Romney said last night, he’s got “binders full of women.” That’s a Mormon man’s goal. (Plus getting rich.)

I don’t believe in a religious test for public office, and Mormons who are Democrats are free to run with me. Maybe I’ll vote for a Mormon someday – but I won’t vote for Romney, whose Catholic running-mate wants to ban all abortions, no matter what, and whose Republican platform declares that a fertilized egg is a human being with 14th Amendment rights to life, liberty and, as Chris Matthews loves to point out, property. (What, they’re doing real estate deals in the womb now?)

Romney says he supports exceptions to the abortion ban in the case of rape, incest and the life of the mother. How many abortions do these exceptions account for, 5%?

What happens to the other 95% of women who feel they need an abortion?

I oppose abortion in principle, as an undesirable thing. But I completely believe in a woman’s right to choose. If she needs an abortion, I want her to be able to get one safely.

A lot of times, ethics and morality do not depend on good vs. evil, but on figuring out which is the lesser of two evils. Safe, legal abortion is the lesser of the two, because God didn’t put women on earth to be baby machines, for Mitt Romney or anyone else.

The Pope and the LDS church love to cite “natural law,” which states that women’s purpose is motherhood. But we’ve learned an awful lot of laws of nature since Aquinas popularized his notions of Plato’s philosophy in the 13th century.

We’ve learned what women can do, that they’re full human beings entitled to the same freedom as the penis-proud.

Abortion would be a lot less necessary is everyone had access to contraception. Yet Romney’s first order of business is de-funding Planned Parenthood.

To me that disqualifies him from being president. He’s a sexist pig, and these are the United States of America. We don’t do prejudice here, or take political contributions from bigots.

Romney takes them every day and says Thank You.

He politicized the death last month of the American ambassador to Libya – before his death was even confirmed. That disqualifies Mitt Romney.

I loved how Obama put him in his place about it last night. I’ve never seen a political staredown quite like that before.

This is the moment when Romney was certain he’d nailed Obama to the wall over the terrorist attack on Benghazi. Obama told him he had said the words “act of terror” the next day, and Romney wanted to get him “on the record” for what the governor thought was an outlandish claim. He stared at the President, then raised his eyebrows, like “Did I really catch you saying that?” When moderator Candy Crowley shot him down, Romney was left sputtering in disbelief. He clearly never bothered to learn the facts – after politicizing the assassination of a U.S. ambassador. (screen capture via MSNBC)

Romney wants the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer – and lies about it. That disqualifies him.

He says 47% of Americans “regard themselves as victims and refuse to take responsibility and care for their lives.” His running mate calls 30% of Americans “takers.” That disqualifies them both.

They’re anti-Gay bigots too, both of them. Maybe that’s why Romney won’t release his tax returns, afraid we’d see how much he gave to pass Proposition 8 in California. You know he didn’t sit on the sidelines; he gave money. He raised money for it from all his Mormon businessman friends. He’s a former bishop; they’re all such conformists they can’t say no to anything that will turn them into gods on a star.

(I must say I’m proud that Democrats have not raised the Mormon issue against the man. Let there be no religious test for public office. I only comment about it because it seems relevant in understanding Mitt Romney; Harry Reed is also a Mormon, and he favors same-sex marriage.)

Romney’s tax “plan” involves cutting Medicaid and shifting it to the states, which we all know will underfund it, thus harming the poor, disabled and elderly. It’s immoral; he disqualifies himself. He isn’t fit to be president.

He should try reading the actual Bible, not the Mormon counterfeit version. Jesus said, “It is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.” The entire prophetic tradition of the Hebrews demands justice for the poor – but Romney wants to make the poor poorer and then blame them for it.

He will run up the deficit and the national debt, after portraying himself as a savior who will cut the deficit and debt. Republicans always do this – while running up the national debt!

He’s a good salesman; he’s got nearly half the country believing him. But why on earth would we elect a financier, four short years after getting screwed by financiers?

Not only are they screwed, they smile about it. (Paul Fell/Artizans)

Romney enjoys threatening war with Iran. But no Romney has ever gone to war; his sons and grandsons won’t either. Going to war is something the “little people” do to indulge the fantasies and greed of the rich.

Romney wants more coal mining, and arranges photo-ops with miners ordered by their bosses to appear without pay. We’ve seen a remarkable increase in employer intimidation this election, but Romney has no problem whatever in cozying up to the dirtiest industry on earth. If it will get him elected, he favors lopping the tops off every mountain in Appalachia.

I guess he figures that when global warming renders God’s green earth uninhabitable, he’ll already be a god himself on a star somewhere.

Pollution is immoral, Mitt; you’ve disqualified yourself.

You’re a liar. God doesn’t think much of that either. Your campaign “isn’t going to be dictated to by fact-checkers.”

Steven Colbert predicted that truth will be replaced by “truthiness,” which George W. Bush was fond of too, and if you win, no one will ever be sure what the truth is again.

America’s existence depends on voting for what is moral, based on what is true. If you replace truth and morality with lies and immorality, we’ll never be the same.

That was the risk Obama – and his strategists – ran when he slept through the first debate. Thank God he woke up in time for the one last night.

We need America to be better than it is today, not worse, and that’s ultimately not a function of the employment rate; instead it’s a result of moral decisions by our leaders and our citizens.

Romney chooses immorality, and is disqualified.++

Nation Shrugs at Romney-Ryan Lies; What’s One More, Anyway?

Which one is Dip? I say it’s the blond. (Meghan Sinclair for TBS)

 

The New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow wrote a hand-wringing column today, “The GOP Fact Vacuum,” trying to point out in just a thousand words that vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, like Burger King, is the Home of the Whopper.

(Not that way, you nasty boy.)

I like Blow’s work, though I miss Bob Herbert and Frank Rich, former Times columnists. But today’s article bothered me a little, because of what it didn’t say, not what it did.

So I left a reply, which has received 129 “likes” so far, one of my more successful efforts of late. (Perspective: other commenters got hundreds more.)

I wrote:

I respect this column, but my frustration rose when Mr. Blow began his series of questions, e.g., “What does this portend for the republic? I worry deeply about this…”

The columnist’s job here is to answer the questions, not just ask them. But since he didn’t, I will. What this “portends” is that the truth no longer matters; a politician’s lies go through the same entertainment filter as a starlet’s latest arrest. It’s all showbiz; why not have Rush Limbaugh blaming Obama for Hurricane Isaac or Clint Eastwood talking to a chair? “Can you believe what that Akin guy said?” is the same as “Can you believe what the Kardashians are up to now?” There’s a reason HuffPo puts politicians right next to celebs and cute cat pictures. It’s all about clicks.

Truth doesn’t matter anymore. Some people will vote GOP just to see pix of Romney’s handsome sons for the next four years. Jon Stewart can’t get over how “cute” Paul Ryan is; so was Sarah Palin, and when that went south Levi Johnston took off his clothes.

Apathy combines with powerlessness to hand the billionaires a golden opportunity. Democracy is dying and plutocracy will replace it. Sure, we’ll still have elections and wave flags, but the masses gave up their power the day they traded commercials for free entertainment. Someone’s already Photoshopped Chip, Bip, Grip, Whip & Dip Romney onto some naked guys; Arianna’s already got a slideshow in the hard drive.

I am guessing that the precipitants to today’s era of “truthiness” are first, the mic’ed-up, little-challenged “birthers,” and second, George W. Bush’s claims that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction, which was an article of faith to the corporate media (including The Times) after 9/11.

But there are so many other lies one could cite that I’m not betting a nickel. You could just as easily refer to ex-Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho): “I’m not gay, and I don’t cruise, and I don’t hit on men. […] I don’t go around anywhere hitting on men, and by God, if I did, I wouldn’t do it in Boise, Idaho! Jiminy!”

I wouldn’t do it in Boise, either, so that part might have been the truth, except when he was cruising guys in sporting goods stores.

He was arrested on June 11, 2007. Despite his guilty plea he was allowed by his Senate colleagues and the people of Idaho to serve out the remainder of his term and didn’t leave office until January 3, 2009.

I would rather not sound like a prophet of doom; people vilified Cassandra even after they found out she was right.

But I do think this election is America’s last chance to save its democracy – that if Chip, Bip and Dip’s dad wins, we tip over into Rule by the Rich, if not psuedo-Christian fascism – and that the best way to prevent that and preserve the rule of law is to do to the greedy, selfish, sinful ideology of Ayn Rand, Ron Paul, Rand Paul and Paul Ryan what Lyndon Johnson did to Barry Goldwater: bury him in a landslide.

But here I sit this Labor Day weekend, and supposedly the polls are tied. No wonder Charles Blow is wringing his hands, asking questions and afraid of the answers.++

LBJ giving Sen. Richard Russell, his mentor, The Treatment: “Whaddayou mean you ain’t doin’ it, boy? Don’t you know I’m the Pres’dent of these United States?”